Nuclear energy firms welcome policy adviser

Government to appoint Professor David MacKay to help with its ambitious climate change strategy

Mark Leftly
Sunday 23 October 2011 05:59

Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, is set to appoint Cambridge University Professor David MacKay as his chief scientific officer this week.

The move will be a boon to the British energy sector: industry leaders from Royal Dutch Shell, EDF Energy and QinetiQ have all praised Professor MacKay's hugely successful book, Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air. Companies looking to get involved in the Government's nuclear roll-out programme will be particularly hopeful that his appointment will quash some of the political arguments against the plans.

Although Professor MacKay has said he is not an apologist for the nuclear industry, the book, published in December, argues that there are "mythconceptions" about the renewable energy source. These include suggestions that nuclear power stations cannot be built quickly enough to help tackle climate change and that increased reactor waste would be a huge health problem.

A nuclear industry source said: "The appointment should please both energy companies and anyone interested in fuel poverty because he won't let waffle get in the way of facts. He may not be popular with dogmatists but British energy business generally – including the foreign operators – should be pleased as MacKay is just plain sensible."

Professor MacKay said in an interview earlier this year that he was keen to help the Government with its climate change policy. "I would be happy to get on a train and go to London," he said. "I am keen to help."

Professor MacKay is a physicist, but he wrote the book in response to what he saw as the polarisation of the energy debate. He believes that the debate over renewable energy resources has been taken over by polemicists, such as those who were anti-nuclear and pro-wind farm, without considering what the actual sustainability needs were in the future.

Lord Oxburgh, the former Shell chairman, is one of many business leaders to endorse the book. He said: "The author uses a potent mixture of arithmetic and common sense to dispel myths and slay sacred cows. In lay language, he systematically analyses the whole gamut of energy sources, sustainable and less so, and assesses their potential." Politicians, such as former environment secretary Michael Meacher, and environmentalists, including the Sustainable Development Commission vice-chairman Rebecca Willis, have also backed the book's arguments.

A formal announcement on Professor MacKay's appointment is expected tomorrow. A Cambridge University source said: "MacKay will not be favouring any energy source, but will be looking for a sustainable energy plan that adds up."

The Government is looking to reduce carbon emission by 80 per cent by 2050, and has decided that a nuclear roll-out programme would help reach this target. Malcolm Wicks, the Prime Minister's energy envoy, believes that nuclear power must make up 40 per cent of all electricity to reach that goal.

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